I have been writing about the newest form of weighted GPP, Wheelbarrow GPP, for about 2 months now. I have received numerous emails during this time, asking various questions. To help answer some of these questions, this week I will talk about some of the observations I have made while performing wheelbarrow GPP myself and watching the athletes at our Athletic Performance Center perform wheelbarrow GPP.
First and foremost is the subject of relaxation while pushing the wheelbarrow. Now, I know you are reading this and wondering if I was recently ran over by one of our wheelbarrows. What I am talking about is relaxing your upper body during the exercise, namely the shoulder, upper back and neck regions. We do this for several reasons. First, by relaxing these regions you will last a lot longer and be able to go farther while performing wheelbarrow GPP.
Your muscles will not go into a fatigue state as fast as they would if you were "tight" during the movement. Second, by staying "relaxed" while you are pushing and carrying the load in the wheelbarrow, you will learn the all-important psychological and physiological concept of being relaxed yet extremely focused while performing strenuous exercise and at the same time being under a large amount of mental and physical stress.
It is well known that when an athlete can stay relaxed while performing their particular event, they tend to perform better and have more success. Third, by staying relaxed throughout the movement, when you do need to reach deep inside yourself to keep going, you will have something there to summon, instead of being empty and exhausted by being tight during the whole exercise.
Posture. What a powerful word!! I talk about it all day long to our patients and preach it with Mike Robertson, the Director of our Athletic Performance Center, to our athletes. Why do we do this? We preach this incessantly because in today's fast paced world, we seem to have forgotten the importance of it. Plus, with current advances in technology, we tend to attain and keep certain postures for long periods of time. When we used to do the manual labor ourselves (i.e. farm work), instead of letting computers and robots perform the labor as is the case nowadays, we were in a lot better shape. Our posture was also not as big an issue since we usually did not stay in one position for a long period. I could go on for long time about posture, but I will save it for another article.
Now back to why posture is important during wheelbarrow GPP. While you are walking with the wheelbarrow, you need to keep the shoulders dropped and relaxed, while at the same time keeping your chest out. Do not let your shoulders round!! If you already have that kind of posture (rounded shoulders) then this will be a great opportunity to correct it. Earlier I said to stay relaxed. If you cannot keep your shoulders back naturally, then you will need to pull them back before you start and keep them there while you are walking. Make sure you don't elevate them when you do this. You can keep them back and at the same time have them dropped. Doing this is not exactly staying as relaxed physically as I would like to see, but you need to do this to help correct a postural deficiency, which at this point is a greater priority.
Another postural problem I see occurs usually near the end of the wheelbarrow walk, but it can occur at any time during the exercise. I call it the "chin pointer." We have all seen it in some form in the gym or on TV. The athlete will stick the chin and neck out in front of them as if this is supposed to help them perform whatever exercise they are doing at that time better. Rounded shoulders usually accompanies this problem. As above, pull the shoulders back and make sure the chin is tucked. The easiest way to "chin tuck" is to look in a mirror and pull your chin in as if you were trying to make a couple of extra chins. Now hold this position while you are also sticking your chest out during the wheelbarrow GPP.
One last posture problem I see is what I call the "Leaning Tower of Pisa" posture. What this looks like is the athlete will walk with the entire body leaning forward, as if they might fall forward if they let go of the wheelbarrow. While this posture is not as bad as the aforementioned rounded shoulders and the chin pointing, especially if these two are not present as problems, I still like to see our athletes walk upright and have their hands and arms hang straight down, alongside their bodies. This is the way we are supposed to walk and since this more closely resembles our normal posture, I recommend it be performed this way. The athlete will derive more benefit from this type of weighted GPP if performed in this manner.
After a few weeks or months of correcting your posture during wheelbarrow GPP, your central nervous system will start to remember this motor pattern and establish it as a motor engram. This effort will go from being a conscious one to a subconscious one. You will be performing the wheelbarrow GPP with good posture and yet you will not have to think about it! This will undoubtedly have a large carryover to your particular sport in the way of better performance and decreased chance of injuries! Until next week, Keep On Pushing!
The Athletic Performance Center (APC) is offering sport-specific performance training, physical therapy and rehabilitation services, and one-on-one personal training. Michael Robertson, MS, CSCS, a Ball State University graduate, is the Director of this new division. This is the place to go in the Midwest for the aforementioned services. More to come on this in the future!!
Look for an upcoming book about the Renegade approach to Strongman/Strongwoman training by Dr. Michael Hartle! I look forward to hearing your comments. Remember to Live the Code and always train hard and be relentless. That is the only way to train! If you have any questions, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. (To read previous articles of Sledgehammer GPP by Dr. Hartle, click here.)
Dr. Mike Hartle, D.C., D.A.C.B.N., C.C.S.P., C.C.N., C.S.C.S.